A Twitch user who goes by the name Sweet Anita says she may leave the platform because of online sexualization.
Anita, 30, earns a living from streaming on Twitch, where she has 1.7 million followers, but has been subject to a wave of online sexualization that has led her to reconsider her job.
She told HuffPost in an interview that despite ever going live while nude, she stumbled upon a Reddit page that claimed to have “not safe for work” (NSFW) photos of her. The contents of the page included thousands of men sharing photos, collages and slowed-down photos of her, bragging about masturbating to the images and discussing in vulgar detail what they would like to do to her.
Most of the photos were reportedly taken from specific moments of her streams, when her cleavage, thighs or undergarments were briefly exposed.
“No matter what I do or how I dress, they do this to me,” Anita, who will not reveal her full name out of concern for her safety, told HuffPost.
“I haven’t ever even taken my clothes off in front of the camera and yet I’m still a very successful porn star,” she added.
HuffPost spoke to a number of female streamers who said they wish they knew about the harassment that comes with going to live before they joined the platform. Some have been forced to contact cybersecurity firms to remove the content after attempts to shut down subreddits and other channels have been unsuccessful.
Anita, who has Tourette’s syndrome, said the online harassers are “literally ruining my experience of streaming,” adding “It’s basically like having millions of people be your boss, and your boss is allowed to sexually harass you every day.”
She was vocal about one particular episode of harassment last year, when a man from her streams stalked her for months. He reportedly waited outside for her with a knife, followed her in public, and threatened to kill her, her pets and her mother.
He stated this publicly last stream. Last time he left messages like this he sat outside my house waiting for me to come out all day, then followed me to a shop. When I asked if he was armed he silently smirked and then chased me. Two men had to grab him so that I could escape. pic.twitter.com/AK8HZpJoTs
— Sweet Anita (@sweetanita) July 14, 2020
She told HuffPost that she has considered leaving the platform for good and moving back to her job in wildlife rehabilitation. She said being subject to the harassment for the rest of her life “would just not be survivable.”
“That sort of thing is probably what I’ll end up going back to one day,” she said. “The mental toll of being at the mercy of these people for the rest of my life would just not be survivable.”
When reached for comment, a Twitch spokesperson told The Hill that it does not “discuss the details of cases to protect the privacy of individuals involved,” but did say “Sexual harassment is a societal ill that is never acceptable in any form – be that in the physical or the digital world.”
“Further, community safety is not an end state, and we must, and do, continually evolve our safety policies and tools to ensure they are comprehensive and account for emerging behaviors,” the spokesperson added.
The spokesperson noted that the platform recently updated its Hateful Conduct & Harassment Policy “to take a clearer and tougher stance on objectifying and sexually harassing behavior.”
The company also introduced an “Off-Service Policy” in April, which “enforces against egregious behaviors that occurred off the Twitch service but threaten to harm the community, including sexual assault.”
“We consistently engage in industry conversations to combat harm towards women and protected groups, and are committed to collaborating with peers in the industry to more effectively combat cross-platform abuse,” the spokesperson concluded.